“That’s what Miami does, they space you out,” he said. “They make it difficult to have a rim protector in the game at all times. They challenge you to keep a guy at the rim and still make them close out to an 18-foot jump shooter. We have to account for that.”
While Haslem and Bosh pulled Hibbert and power forward David West away from the basket, James took over as the Heat’s post presence, overpowering and dominating All-Star forward Paul George.
“I made a conscious effort to get down in the post tonight, to put pressure on their defense,” James said. “The coaching staff wanted me to be down there tonight, and my teammates allowed me to do that.”
James, bouncing back after two late turnovers cost Miami in Game 2, had 22 points, four rebounds and three assists. Hours after Wade learned he would only be tagged with a flagrant foul from Game 2 and not a suspension, he finished with 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Bosh added 15 points and three rebounds, and all five Miami starters reached double figures.
Miami outscored Indiana 56-32 in the paint, but perhaps that much should be expected from a team with this much scoring punch—one that has won 23 of its last 24 games on the road.
The other stuff, not so much.
Miami committed a playoff franchise-low one turnover in the first half and finished with only five. James finished with none.
The Heat shot 54.5 percent against a Pacers team that finished the regular season with the NBA’s best defensive field goal percentage and also made 24 of 28 free throws. They matched the highest scoring output in a quarter during this season’s playoffs with 34, broke the franchise playoff record for points in a half (70) and fell one point short of tying the third-highest point total in a playoff game in franchise history.
But the biggest difference between the first two games and Sunday night’s rout was James’ work on the inside.
“It was something we wanted to get just to help settle us and get into a more aggressive attack,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the decision to post up the 6-foot-8 James. “We wanted to be a little more aggressive, a little more committed to getting into the paint and seeing what would happen. LeBron was very committed and focused not to settle.”